Thai eatery has the potential to become a new Edmonton staple
The thing many people want from Thai food is authenticity—just so long as its evocative of the stalls and street carts of smelly old Bangkok, that’s all you’re asking. If you’ve ever had your stomach scorched by a steady diet of cheap, fresh, deliciously potent food as you backpacked your way through the infernal emerald free-for-all that is Thailand, you probably cherish the eye-watering curries, som tums and nam priks that sent your diaphragm into convulsions at first bite.
Places like Syphay, Viphalay, Boualouang and Million Thai bob above the surface of Edmonton’s teeming Thai food-scape for me—you probably know of a nook somewhere near you that doles out the good stuff—and they all tick the authentic box, based on a rapidly fading memory of a Siamese romp a dozen years ago. But sometimes, it’s nice to be surprised by something new.
LOFT Thai Eatery is an ambitious little venture on what looks like a pretty chanceless stretch of 75 Street, with a classy looking logo and a name that reflects the size, if not the altitude, of the dining area (ie: not all that big). It’s as though there’s no room for decoration, though the place gets by on its sleek new-restaurant austerity and floor-to-ceiling windows.
The menu mixes up the expected (soups, curries, noodles) with some novel twists, most notably a sexy list of entrees that includes braised short rib, baby back ribs, salmon and—oh my god—duck. Co-diner and I agree we must try the confit curry ($23), though I’m barely less insistent about the seafood drunken bucatini ($18). Our guest co-diners go the more trad route with pad thai ($18.50) and chicken in green curry ($15). And so it went with appetizers: Thai arancini ($9.50) for us, “zap” wings for them ($12.50).
We agreed the appetizers were good but not great. Arancini are an Italian thing, usually, and “deep fried balls of rice full of cheese” doesn’t really get at how elegant they can be. The Thai version retained the expected breadcrumb coating on the outside, but was flecked with lemongrass pork on the inside and skipped the cheese. Ginger-cilantro aioli was judiciously dolloped on top. It tasted good, but didn’t update my understanding of arancini. “Zap” apparently designates a lime-tinged spiciness in northern Thai cuisine, but it didn’t inhabit the dry-spiced wings in any appreciable way.
The entrees were another story entirely. First of all, the curried duck confit was gorgeously plated, a plump roasted duck leg draped across a palette of saffron, orange and red, which turned out to be yam puree, steamed carrot spears and a pool of sweet, spicy red curry harbouring secret lychee nuts, with a few shocks of bright green broccoli for contrast. The duck fell apart into lubricious tatters at the touch of the fork and married beautifully with the various smears. It bears noting that the excellent coconut rice on the side was topped with lots of fried shallots, because damn that tasted good.
The seafood drunken bucatini was less flamboyant, but not less delicious. The licorice-and-coconut scented green curry shellacked on mussels, clams, shrimp, mushrooms and grilled bell peppers was just the right amount of spicy for the rather astute choice of bucatini (basically hollow spaghetti). It was my favourite dish of the night.
I didn’t realize until leftovers the next day that the chicken green curry was similarly spiced and really quite tasty in its own right. The pad thai with plump shrimp and lots of sprouts tangled up in its rice noodles and tangy sauce was a completely respectable take on the dish. But the bucatini and the duck just blew everything out of the water. Now I want to try that short rib.
People who live near LOFT, it’s on you to keep this place going until it catches on as a destination. Chef Chon Vichitvorakul clearly has a talent for unique Thai-accented entrees we’d all be fortunate to get to know better.
LOFT Thai Eatery
5324 75 St.